Weekly output: Amazon Echo, data caps, telecom bills

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Me neither. But at least I’m further along in the process than I was at this point last year.

Yahoo Tech Amazon Echo review12/16/2014: We Try the Amazon Echo, Yahoo Tech

Amazon PR hasn’t exactly been handing out review units of the Echo, but a friend got a semi-coveted invitation to buy this Bluetooth speaker/digital assistant/listening device and was kind enough to invite me over for the unboxing and some of his early use. Yahoo Tech (by which I mean me) paid for that early access with a bottle of homebrewed beer.

12/16/2014: When Is a Data Cap Not a Data Cap? When Big Telecom Says So, Yahoo Tech

This story had been in the works for a while, and then I had to redo a paragraph in it as it was supposed to go online to note T-Mobile’s customer-friendly addition of a data-rollover policy. The photo, in case you were curious, represents a rare case of my getting actual value from the mailings Comcast sends me every other week; in the background you can see a Dominion Power smart meter.

12/21/2014: Give the gift of cheaper TV, Internet and phone service, USA Today

In need of a column topic for this weekend, I asked the Twitter hive mind which family tech-support tasks people were most nervous about. One person replied that calling Comcast led the list, and that made me realize that I was overdue to write a cheat sheet about ways to trim telecom bills.

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Weekly output: police body cameras, mobile battery life, online publishing, DSL modems

It’s not Christmas yet, but I can see it before me. Which is another way of saying that I need to finalize my CES schedule, book my Mobile World Congress flights, and figure out where I’m staying for SXSW.

12/9/2014: 3 Questions to Ask Before Putting Cameras on Cops, Yahoo Tech

This column got a spot on the Yahoo home page, resulting in a flood of comments and a round of e-mails I wish I’d answered already.

Kojo Nnamdi Show mobile battery life12/9/2014: Powering Our Mobile Devices: How to Boost Battery Life, Kojo Nnamdi Show

I talked about what can prolong the time before your phone’s next meeting with a power outlet. My interlocutors: host Kojo Nnamdi and C|Net executive editor Ian Sherr,

12/11/2014: Mistakes made in online publishing, HHS Digital Council

News organizations have often chosen poorly when picking online publishing systems, so I had to accept a friend’s invitation to discuss that history before a group of digital-media managers for various branches of the Department of Health and Human Services.

12/14/2014: Weak Wi-Fi drags down DSL? Try moving the modem, USA Today

This column, like others, started with a call from a friend who had a technical question (in this case, about being able to replace an aging Verizon DSL modem with one that might get a WiFi signal to all of a house). That’s why I’m glad I write a Q&A column: It lets me monetize the inevitable tech-support queries from pals.

Weekly output: EU vs. Google, Tech Night Owl, Sprint WiMax resellers

This has been a rotten week for journalism, courtesy of Rolling Stone’s failure to follow the newsroom mantra “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” when reporting a gruesome allegation of gang rape at the University of Virginia. My own week in journalism was better, but I’m not going to say it represented my best work.

12/2/2014: The European Union Wants to Regulate Google —Some More, Yahoo Tech

The EU’s increasingly shrill attacks on Google led to a column in which I sound suspiciously like a Republican (maybe even more than when I’m discussing San Francisco’s screwed-up housing policy). But in retrospect, I should have ended the column on a different note: By acting like the confiscatory villains in an Ayn Rand novel, the EU invites us to dismiss all of its critiques of Google, even the ones that might have a grounding in the facts.

12/6/2014: December 6, 2014 — John Martellaro and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

Host Gene Steinberg and I talked about the present and possible future of the Apple TV, net-neutrality politics, Windows 10, 4K TV and a few other things.

USAT column on Sprint Wimax resellers12/7/2014: 4G me not: WiMax isn’t LTE and is going away at Sprint resellers, USA Today

I don’t always get to write my own headlines, but my editor at USAT appreciates the help and I don’t mind making the effort–especially when this kind of wordplay pops into my head. The research involved in this  piece about companies reselling Sprint service will also play into an upcoming story about wireless broadband.

Weekly output: startups and privacy, iPhoto passwords

I’m thankful for readers who look for my work, and for clients who pay well and on time. You?

11/25/2014: Is the Uber Problem Changing How Startups Treat Privacy? Not Much., Yahoo Tech

Halfway through the Demo conference two weeks ago, I worried that I wouldn’t have anything to write about. Then I remembered that the founders of most new startups actually say what they think, unlike their more seasoned, better-media-trained counterparts at older tech companies.

USAT iPhoto-passwords post11/30/2014: Warning: iPhoto won’t know if you change a password in OS X, USA Today

I feel a tiny bit dumb for writing this more than two years after getting religion about two-step verification. In my defense, I almost never use iPhoto’s shortcut to e-mail photos from that app, so it fell to my wife to run into and ask me about a password-management glitch in that soon-to-be-retired app that Apple probably won’t fix.

Weekly output: phone encryption, old browsers

I wrapped up this year’s business travel with a run out to the Bay Area for the Demo conference in San Jose, Calif. This year’s edition of that event was a little confusing: Although the quantity and quality of the startups presenting seemed as high as ever, the attendance had dropped significantly, and the catering (warning: first-world journalism problems) had fallen off a cliff. Is that a long-term problem? Don’t ask me, because events like that shouldn’t be all about me.

Yahoo Tech phone-encryption post11/18/2014: Why the Cops Hate the New Apple and Google Phones, Yahoo Tech

This was a column I could have written weeks ago, but instead I kept gathering string at various events in D.C. and elsewhere. I think that worked out okay.

Note that the headline got a rewrite after the first day. Did “Well-Encrypted Phones on Vulnerable Cellular Networks: Anxiety All Around” resonate more or less than the current hed?

11/23/2014: Thanksgiving tech support: Replace aging browsers, USA Today

After I filed this piece–for once, early–Mozilla announced that it would make Yahoo the default search engine in its Firefox browser. Updating the column to note that affiliation seemed like it would call too much attention to my client, as in the problem I try to avoid when I must mention Yahoo services at other sites. If you think I got that wrong, you’re welcome to explain why in a comment.

Weekly output: net neutrality (x2), Nexus 6, connected-car privacy, Nexus lineup, Comcast fees

If only I could look this productive every week… note that all this happened with two travel days and a conference eating up my schedule, and that I filed another piece on Friday that hasn’t run yet.

11/11/2014: 5 Things to Know About Obama’s Net-Neutrality Push, Yahoo Tech

I enjoyed taking the close-up photo of an Ethernet cable that illustrates this post, and then I was pleasantly relieved not to see the comments immediately overrun with denunciations of net neutrality based on it being something President Obama supports.

11/11/2014: Beyond Email: 3 Innovative Communication Tools for Your Team, CyberCoders

My friend Andrea Smith quoted me a few times in this piece about collaborative apps used by geographically distributed workers to coordinate their work; appropriately enough, HipChat is one tab away from her story in my browser as I type this.

11/12/2014: Net neutrality, The Bill Press Show

An 8:30 am. East Coast radio interview was no problem the day after I flew to San Francisco, since jet lag had me awake around 4:30 a.m. local time. (Time-zone disruption was a bigger problem than usual on this trip; even Saturday morning, when I was thoroughly worn down from the week, I still found myself awake before 7 a.m. Ugh.)

11/12/2014: Nexus 6 review: Stop the screen-specs madness, VentureBeat

This phone bothered me more than I thought it would. Both the enormous screen and its beyond-human-vision pixel density strike me as the tech industry at its worst, chasing specs with inadequate attention to their real-world benefits.

11/12/2014: Privacy on the Road: A Conversation about Connected Cars, Privacy Identity Innovation

My interview with Catherine McCullough, executive director of the Intelligent Car Coalition, was scheduled for one of the trickier timeslots at a conference: immediately before the reception. I think we did okay; when they post video of this, you can judge for yourself 12/14/2014: see for yourself.

Boing Boing Nexus 2014 review11/13/2014: The new Nexus lineup is weak, Boing Boing

I enjoyed getting a chance to review the same devices for a different site and a different audience. Check out the comments for some detailed back-and-forth about this year’s crop of Nexus devices.

11/16/2014: Comcast changes tune on ‘change of service’ fee, USA Today

I was scrounging around for a suitable column topic when a reader’s tweet about getting hit with a fee by Comcast for the privilege of canceling his service solved that problem for me. I hope, in turn, that my spotlighting this issue helps solve my reader’s problem.

Updated 11:57 p.m. to include Andrea Smith’s piece about collaboration tools. I knew I was leaving something out the first time around…

Weekly output: Nexus Player, Nexus 9, Verizon Wireless and AT&T’s user tracking, exposed images, Facebook and Flash video

It’s been 11 whole days since I last ventured beyond the Beltway, but Tuesday morning I get back on a plane: I’m headed to the Bay Area for the Privacy Identity Innovation conference, where I’ll be conducting an onstage interview about connected cars.

11/3/2014: Google’s Nexus Player is no Apple TV; it’s not even a Chromecast, VentureBeat

Where exactly is Google going with this streaming-media player that costs almost three times a Chromecast but doesn’t do all that much more? I’m confused. (To the commenters saying “Apple fanboy”: I gladly paid my own money for a Chromecast but have never done so for an Apple TV. Also, try to show some originality in your insults.)

VentureBeat Nexus 9 review11/3/2014: Nexus 9 tablet shows Google is thinking bigger — but not big enough (review), VentureBeat

I was more conflicted about this device. If it had shipped with more memory, sold for a lower price or not retreated on the feature set of last year’s Nexus 7, I probably would have been kinder to it in this review.

11/4/2014: How Verizon Wireless Is Tracking You All Around the Web, Yahoo Tech

It’s amazing to me that VzW executives seriously think they can tamper with their subscribers’ online activity to insert a personally-identifiable tracking header and not let anybody opt out. In what universe does that not lead to a class-action lawsuit, an FTC investigation, a hostile Congressional hearing or all of the above?

11/6/2014: Jennifer Lawrence’s Hacked Photos: A “Sex Crime?” The Legal Underpinnings of Digitally Exposed Private Images and What Congress Needs to Know, Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee

I discussed the hacking of many celebrities’ iCloud photo backups, plus the broader problem of “revenge porn,” with University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Emma Llansó, recently-retired law prof David Post and Politico cybersecurity reporter Tal Kopan. You can watch the proceedings on C-SPAN.

11/9/2014: Facebook won’t unfriend Flash, but it should, USA Today

Months after I uninstalled Adobe Flash from this Mac’s copy of Safari, the only time I really notice its absence as a problem is when I click on a video some friend has posted to Facebook and can’t watch it. This column sheds some light on this needless compatibility problem and offers a tip about watching Amazon instant video without Microsoft’s even-less-useful Silverlight plug-in.